You know, sometimes for a Fringe I will take a rare day off work on a Saturday or Sunday, escape briefly from the brunch mines and try to get in a full day of shows. This almost never works, and I always leave these full day efforts feeling oddly depressed, failed, and lonely. Like, more than usual, I mean. Happily, today was no different, because who likes change?
Arrived bright and early …well, all right, it was overcast and rainy, and it was noon, split hairs if you must. But I was there is the point, and for my second Franco-production of the festival. From la Theatre de 28 Aout, LE RIRE DE LA MER came highly recommended to me by none other personage than Tania Levy, and she tells me she knows what she’s talking about. And I personally believe she does too, after seeing this gem. My French is very admittedly weak, so I sometimes stumbled with catching ALL the words to Pierre-Michel Tremblay’s clever script but the gist of it centers around Penelope (played by the insanely sexy Marie -France Jacques), a femme fatale of the very classic variety who is diagnosed with terminal cancer. A rather mad journey ensues, involving Gods and Angels, Ulysses, Moliere, shameless breaking of the fourth wall and a surprising amount of goofy fun for a play ostensibly about cancer.
MER is one of the most purely theatrical things I’ve seen at this years Fringe, a real treat, and probably even more so if you know French better than me (although I think I managed for the most part this time). Plenty of wonderful touches in director Jean-Pierre Tamine’s show, even a chorus (made up of amusingly annoyed actors).
The play ran a little long when I saw it, damn near two hours, a first for me at Fringe. It went SO over, in fact, I skipped my next show and opted for a coffee break…I was already starting to drag. This coma is really catching up with me, and my body is well aware of how much sleep it isnt’t getting. But I suppose others have it plenty worse, so after Second-Cupping up, I was back for my 3:30 appointment, and my two-year reunion with good old Alumni Auditorium. I have fond memories of enjoying DIE ROTEN PUNKTE there at my very first Fringe in ’08, and it was another musical bringing me back. This time, QUESTION PERIOD: THE MUSICAL, written by Ed Gillis (who also appears). boasting a huge cast and about a half-dozen musical styles, QP tells the tale of idealist MP Finn Opatowskopoulos (Eric Kendrick) and his misadventures in Ottawa. It starts out a bit slow, but once we hit Parliament, things get pretty raucous in the caucus in short order (yeah, I went there…trust me, they do too). The actual Question Period scenes are golden, Kermit the Frog makes a cameo, and there’s even a Brigitte dePape shoutout. The writing is sharp and funny, the songs range from good to great, and the energy is high throughout. They packed the joint, no mean feat at Alumni, and had people on their feet more than once. I’m calling this one a win.
And it had something interesting in common, might I add, with RIRE DE LA MER…namely, it ALSO ran 15 minutes long, which meant I missed my planned 5:00 show. Sigh. Thank goodness it’s a nice day, so I can hang out in the courtyard and…oh. Right. Rain. Again.
SO, after killing some time eating some pork and noodle soup over at the Byward Market Wonton house (tasty, I’ll concede), I wandered on back, a little aimless. The mean reds were creeping up on me, as they do, and I was having trouble deciding what to see at 6:30. I’d already seen most of it, and I did a lot of mopey foot-shuffling until I spotted enough of the cool kids lining up for PETER N’ CHRIS SAVE THE WORLD that I decided, fuck it, I’m goin’ again. It turned out to be the right thing to do, as some P&C belly laughs were just what I needed to turn my frown upside down. Fuckin’ Truthbomb, yo.
Made a beeline from Cafe Alt over to Studio Lenny-Bone, for my actually PLANNED repeat viewing for the day..I bought an advance ticket and everything! And good thing, too, because ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL sold itself out again tonight, a whole half hour before showtime. I won’t bother adding more praise to the heap Nancy Kenny is already collecting for this show, only a) she played with the audience hilariously this time, and had a very memorable drunken give’n go with Bev Wolfe in the front row, and b) here’s a cool video for Uncle Leon and the Alibis rockin’ anthem, with the familiar title:
After getting out of that packed and very happy house (two shows left tomorrow, gang!), I hit the tent for some quick Samosa goodness, rapid palaver with Brie Barker and Richard Hemphill, before skulking away again (I was doing an awful lot of skulk this day, I was noticing) to the IT Hall at Tabaret. Up, up those winding steps I wended, for CALLAGHAN!, the Improv show from Montreal’s Toronto’s SEX T-REX. I’ve caught the Rex before at the Ottawa Improv Fest, and they’re about as good as it gets. So when I heard they had a show in the Fringe, it got on my list,and I’m glad I made it out.
The show is centered around the tough-guy action hero Jack Callaghan, with a new story being improvised around him every night. The one I saw was plenty laugh-out-loud hilarious…the music cues were a big help with making it feel different from your run of the mill improv show. And you have to see four men imitating a fucking helicopter, and WELL, before you can call your life complete. They had wicked timing and rapport, never losing the flow for more than a few seconds, and with action sequences that rivalled the best Peter and Chris had to offer. A highlight, and I’m glad I didn’t miss the T-Rex while they were in town.
Tried after that to hang around the tent, but it just wasn’t clicking. Even the great shows I’d seen today couldn’t totally fight away the reds, and I skulked away (yes, again) from the tent with my usual pathological conviction that I simply didn’t belong there. In tonite’s case, that clinical depression served me well, as I could use the extra rest for my early shift tomorrow, and final night of Fringing afterwards. Still haven’t finalized my last batch of shows, actually…maybe I’m just trying to postpone the inevitable. But no, we wont think about that, will we? No, no, I’m just gonna hit the hay, and try and smile, because there’s at least one more day of Fringe ahead of me. One more day. That’s all right, that is.
Peace , love and soul, Fringers,
Kevin and Winston